Dave Roberts spent his Friday afternoon reckoning with his team’s past while preparing for its future. When the Dodgers left home last Sunday, Roberts packed for a seven-day trip. He expected to return to Los Angeles after the final game of the regular season with his team’s sixth consecutive National League West title in hand. Members of his team wondered if they might celebrate as early as Wednesday or Thursday.
On Friday, hours before a 3-1 victory over San Francisco, Roberts and the Dodgers understood those aspirations were foolhardy. The team trailed Colorado by a game in the standings. Roberts had to ponder how to set up his pitching staff for a possible wild-card game on Tuesday, while still hoping to force Game 163 with the Rockies on Monday.
“Would it be a regular-season disappointment to not win the division, if that’s that the case? Yeah. It would be,” Roberts said before the game. “But you have to refocus and understand that you still have an opportunity to win a championship.”
The Dodgers (89-71) will enter the final 48 hours of the regular season needing help to win the West. The Rockies steamrolled the Washington Nationals on Friday for their eighth victory in a row. Colorado can clinch the division if it wins Saturday and the Dodgers lose. After popping champagne bottles at Coors Field to commemorate reaching the playoffs Friday, members of the Rockies huddled to watch the Dodgers play the Giants.
The Dodgers still can force a tiebreaker Monday — or perhaps even win the division outright, if the Rockies happen to drop two in a row to the Nationals, and the Dodgers sweep the Giants. That outcome may have seemed possible two weeks ago, but it feels unlikely at this point. The Rockies leapfrogged the Dodgers this week with a four-game sweep of Philadelphia. Colorado’s winning surge coincided with the Dodgers dropping two of three to Arizona.
“We’re playing playoff baseball, and that’s our focus,” Roberts said. “To play with desperation, I’m OK with that.”
To get there, the Dodgers needed to take care of business against an underwhelming opponent. Enrique Hernandez continued his dominance of Giants starter Madison Bumgarner by collecting three hits. Justin Turner delivered the decisive blow with a two-run home run in the fifth.
Hyun-Jin Ryu emerged from an evening of stress with six innings of one-run baseball. He gave up four hits and issued two walks but prevented San Francisco from gashing him. Since returning from the disabled list in August, his earned-run average is 1.88 in nine starts. The pitching staff made the lead stick, and so did the defense. The middle-infield duo of Manny Machado and Brian Dozier turned four double plays.
En route to their second losing season in a row, the Giants appeared energized by the idea of spoiling the Dodgers’ season. They altered their rotation so Bumgarner could start Friday.
“I respect that,” Roberts said. “And I know our guys are up for the task.”
San Francisco staked Bumgarner a lead in the second inning. Ryu had not permitted a run in his previous two starts, pitching his way into the team’s theoretical postseason plans. He looked less formidable Friday at the start. Ryu gave up a solo homer to Nick Hundley on a thigh-high cutter.
The Dodgers answered in the third. Hernandez led off with his second single of the game. David Freese took a walk. Machado stroked an RBI single into left field. The rally fizzled moments later, when Matt Kemp bounced into a double play.
The next pitch Bumgarner threw was a 90-mph fastball. Turner was not fooled. He launched a two-run homer into the left-center seats to give the Dodgers their first lead.
Ryu made it through six innings. His defense guided him there. His teammates turned double plays in the second, fourth and sixth innings to decrease the traffic on the bases. Bumgarner departed after the sixth, too.
The bullpen created a dilemma and then solved it in the seventh. Scott Alexander walked a batter and left the game. Pedro Baez gave up a single to Aramis Garcia to place two runners aboard with none out.
Baez helped his team escape by picking up a pair of strikeouts. Alex Wood finished the inning by fanning Giants reserve Chase d’Arnaud with a changeup. The lack of contact meant the runners were stranded and the Dodgers were still in front.
“Every win is important,” Turner said. “We want to win our way into the postseason.”